The team at IMPACT 307 in Sheridan continues with ongoing coordination and client advising for the 2020 Sheridan Start-Up Challenge.
The application period for the challenge closed Sept. 22. We received 51 entries this year, a 30% increase over 2019. Interest in starting up new ventures during this most unusual COVID-19 year is very high. There were some wonderful ideas put forth, most of which would benefit Sheridan and surrounding areas. Though the bulk of the applications came in from Sheridan County, we also had entrants from Johnson, Campbell and Park counties.
We assembled an outstanding panel of local judges made up of Sheridan entrepreneurs and community leaders to review every application. The judges met and narrowed the challenge field to 12 semifinalists. This past week, each of the semifinalists made short presentations and allowed the judges an opportunity to pose questions about their plans. From this process, the judges made their selections and we now have five finalists for this year’s Start-Up Challenge.
The finalist business plans include two pickup truck accessories that would be extremely well received in our outdoor recreation oriented state, a local source, year-round supplier of fresh produce and home recipe value-added food products, a virtual reality-based software and hardware platform for creating facility security plans and a producer of fantasy-themed, hand-crafted jewelry and other accessories.
The judges had some very difficult calls to make, so mentioning some of the semifinalist plans not progressing in the challenge competition is worth noting. These plans included a disinfecting shopping cart device, a drone service featuring high-tech imaging capability, a green-friendly regional cloth diaper laundry service, a solution designed to keep deer and other animals off of Wyoming highways, a product development firm specializing in high-value carbon materials, an e-commerce company and a communication service for seniors and veterans using repurposed technology hardware.
Our Sheridan area has some amazing entrepreneurs. At IMPACT 307, we will continue to work with all challenge applicants whether they progress in our competition or not. We have business advisory expertise, access to professional services and avenues into technology and business support via the University of Wyoming that can be helpful to all business founders wishing to grow their ventures.
In the previous three years of the Start-Up Challenge, IMPACT 307 held a public pitch event where members of the community could come out, view the business plan pitches, meet the finalists and help us celebrate the wonderful culture of entrepreneurism that we enjoy in the Sheridan area. Unfortunately, the realities of the current COVID-19 public meeting restrictions and precautions prevent us from hosting such an event in 2020.
Our backup plan includes having the finalists make their pitches with just the judges and IMPACT 307 staff in attendance. The great news is, we will be able to livestream the event so that interested community members can view the presentations from the comfort and safety of their homes or offices. Pitch Night 2020 will be Oct. 28 and will begin at 5:30 p.m.
Everyone is invited to this virtual event and will be treated to the details of some impressive entrepreneur business plans.